Pharmakon, watercolor, chalk and charcoal on paper, 29,7×42 cm, July 2022

I started to make this drawing, at first wishing to give it as a gift to a friend who is pregnant, for her birthday.

I knew that I wanted it to be an image of lightness, without cumbersome identities to make the body recognizable, nor fully gendered.

I wanted the colors to be non realistic -a tender green for the flesh, and an impalpable orange haze for the sky.

I wanted the human belly to look like a bud in its full turgor, gently loosening its petals, caressed by the warmth of a humid summer.

But as I started drawing, intrusive thoughts about the shrinking of reproductive rights around the world, the memory of simple sleep nightmares about having to carry to the world a life, unwanted and unprepared for, and the dystopian images of the book I was reading at the moment (Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler), muddled the tones that I was picking and added ambiguity to the colors.

Green -like the fragrant spine of leaves gently bending upwards towards the rays of light
Green -like the crumbles of hemlock at the bottom of a mortar, crushed to poison and kill

Brown -like the seeds guarded in the loving chest of Earth, seducing with their helplessness, asking be fed and rewarding their caretakers with equal abundance
Brown – like the rottening of corpses, or the reeking dirt that dilutes one’s dignity in shame, just for the sin of having a body

Orange -like the vibrancy of fire, the sensuality of warmth, the undimmed aliveness of a star that burns to death
Orange -like acid clouds heavy with corrosive rains, dried up waterbeds, layers of skin aging and shedding under the weight of wearying labour.

The title is taken from the confounding use of the word φάρμακον (phármakon) that Plato uses in the dialogue Phaedrus to describe the practice of writing. It can be a healing cure, that nurtures memory and that people yearn to master through years of training, but it can also be an intoxicating drug, that clouds critical thinking and a present reflection on events.

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